Torah Portion: Chol Ha Mo’ed Sukkot Exodus 33:12-34:26
Today is the Shabbat that falls in the intermediate days of Sukkot. In this section of scripture two things tie it to the holiday of Sukkot. In Exodus 34:22 the holiday is mentioned in the list of appointed times. In Chapter 33 G-d appears to Moses. In I Kings during the dedication of Solomon’s temple, the presence of G-d appears in the temple. As a result the priests could not minister or even go into the temple.
I want to take a minute and talk about appointed times. In Hebrew the word used for appointed times is Mo’ed. The overall holidays and Sabbath are called the Mo’edim. This word in Hebrew has the idea of “standing before.” It is similar to when you make an appointment with your doctor or dinner date with a friend. You are expected to be there, how much more when the G-d of the universe makes an appointment. He expects us to show up. Now the question becomes, are we as non-Jews under an obligation to show up since we are not Jewish? Acts 15:24-29 sets out the requirements for the early non-Jewish believers. The question here in Acts revolved around whether the observance of the Law was an obligation in order to be a part of the fellowship of believers. The Jerusalem council answered this question every clearly by laying out the minimum requirements for non-Jews. It should be important to understand they did not forbid the non-Jews from following the Torah, but they did make it clear it was not necessary. I believe the problem was that some people were making it a test of faith – which it is not.
However, in the New Testament we see many verses that speak of the Torah as good and holy. One example is Romans 7:12, 22. Romans 3:31 talks about faith not abolishing the Torah but establishing it. In Acts 24:14 and 25:8 even Paul talked about his own life saying he has been faithful to the traditions of the fathers.
So the problem lies not in the Torah but with us, where it has always been. G-d did His part but we missed the mark. When we read Hebrews 8 we can come away with the idea that the New Testament supplants the Torah and in fact did away with it. I think that is a mistake, as even the life of Paul makes clear. The New Testament is a better covenant in that it gives each of us the possibility of living completely in harmony with G-d daily through the death and resurrection of Yeshua. However, it was never meant to replace the Torah. The Torah is G-d’s blue print for how to live a spiritual life with G-d. As non-Jews we must search out the spiritual meaning behind what we read in the Torah. Part of that search can only be fully realized by doing. When we as non-Jews observe Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shabbat and any of these appointed times we should be able to explore the depths of what G-d meant in the first place. To not do this leaves us handicapped in our walk with G-d.
We should see the New Testament as a continuation of and not a replacement of the Hebrew Scriptures. As we allow G-d’s spirit to work in our lives the Torah moves from being written on stone to being written on our hearts. It then will be reflected in our deeds, thoughts and words. We will reflect the character of G-d and His character is most clearly found in the Torah.